Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God – World Day of Peace
A special welcome to those whose prayers are united with ours through the parish webcam facility. I welcome public representatives, civic and municipal authorities, the Garda Síochána, the Civil Defence, the Ambulance Service, the Fire Service, the Order of Malta and the O.N.E. I wish each of you and your families the blessings of this day and the year ahead 2018″.
In his introduction he also commented “We always start a New Year by imploring blessings on one another. Our first reading from the Book of Numbers so well encapsulates this blessing, and I believe puts words on our wishes for one another: “may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace”.
Pope Francis this year entitles his message ‘Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace’. It hits a nerve; it is as ever topical. Migrants travelling across other lands, refugees fleeing persecution, the homeless cowering in shop doorways, those living in direct provision are people like all of us, in search of peace”.
What is the difference between a migrant and a refugee? A migrant is a person who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere. There is a good element of planning to their decision, they might even study the new language before arriving and check out job opportunities. They can plan their travel, take their belongings and say goodbye to important people in their lives. They are free to return home if things don’t work out, as they had hoped.
A refugee is forced to leave his or her country, they are at risk of persecution or have direct experience of it. The element of threat is huge. The refugee leaves behind their home, most of their belongings, family members and friends. There is no opportunity to say goodbye. Trauma and torture are part of their story. They are not free to return home.
Pope Francis in his topical message centred on migrants and refugees this day reminds us there are 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5million are refugees. He talks a lot about their journey, very perilous at times, encountering walls and fences to keep them out. He refers to the ‘contemplative gaze’ that recognises we all belong to one family. He says “when we turn that gaze to migrants and refugees, we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed”. He moves the definition of migrant and refugee to include victims of human trafficking and asylum seekers, offering us four practical actions for 2018: “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating”. I love his use of St. Paul: “you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people”.
It is not a mistake that every New Year begins under the protection of Mary, our Mother. Just as the shepherds ran to Mary so we too run to her, imploring her help and seeking her intercession. Our Lady is born to be a Mother. Her vocation as mother was affirmed at the foot of the Cross as she witnessed the suffering of her only Son. To the apostle John, Jesus said from the Cross: “Behold your Mother”. Mary, our Mother leads us to Christ. The shepherds are not the only ones running to Mary and to Bethlehem but they also return to the hills to do what shepherds do. They are changed profoundly by what they gazed at in Bethlehem. We too need to be changed by our contemplative gaze of recent days, leaving Christ in Bethlehem, leaving Christ in the cushy cribs of our Cathedrals and Churches is failing to see him in the refugee, the migrant, the asylum seeker, the victim of human trafficking. We are all one family; we have one Mother.
A poem by an anonymous poet I read sometime back says:
“Your mother is always with you
she’s the whisper of the leaves
as you walk down the street.
She’s the smell of bleach
in your freshly laundered socks.
She’s the cool hand on your brow
when you’re not well.
Your mother lives inside your laughter.
She’s crystallised in every teardrop.
She’s the place you came from,
your first home.
She’s the map you follow
with every step you take.
She’s your first love
and your first heartbreak …
and nothing on earth can separate you”.
Our Lady, Mother of God, pray for us.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
St. Bridget of Kildare, pray for us.
St. Conleth of Newbridge, pray for us.
St. Laserian of Leighlin, pray for us.